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It was spring break for UTSA this past week. However, the Baseball team’s on-field performance took no such break. The Roadrunners outscored their opponents 29-10, which helped them go 4-0 across the slate. The team extended their win streak to ten games while improving their season record to 18-3.
Perhaps most importantly, they got off to a 3-0 start in conference play, sweeping the FAU Owls, who were projected to finish ahead of UTSA in the C-USA standings. The Roadrunners are also flopping series results from last season, flipping the script from FAU’s 2-1 series win in 2022. While UTSA did not score double digits this week, they did have some comfortable wins, mixed in with locked-down relief pitching to close out closer games.
They say you might see something you’ve never seen at the park. That happened today with an FAU home run in the first that was overturned on account of the bat being illegal. Also, kudos to the Roadrunner faithful who contributed from the bleachers to help motivate the guys when questionable calls seemed to land on the side of FAU.
WHAT I FELT GOOD ABOUT…
Starting Pitching Eating Innings – The weekend series against FAU turned into a Sunday doubleheader due to the weather on Saturday. Luke Malone pitching 7 1/3 innings on Friday and Ulises Quiroga going 6 1/3 innings in Game 1 on Sunday helped keep the bullpen use at a minimum going into the series finale Sunday afternoon. Malone struck out six and only allowed two runs, one earned, while Quiroga struck out nine and allowed two earned runs. The entire pitching staff continues to impress this season. Going into this weekend, they were ninth in Division 1 with a 2.74 ERA. It’s also worth noting that UTSA held an FAU team who had scored 145 runs coming into this weekend to just seven runs.
Multiple Contributors on Offense – Everyone did their part this week. Across the four-game spread, UTSA combined for 42 hits. Almost every ‘Runner who had an AB recorded an RBI at some point. While Taylor Smith did not log an RBI, he scored a run and improved his OBP with walks and hit-by-pitches. Baseball is a game where one day you might win 10-0, and the next you might lose by the same number. I’ve mentioned it before, but different guys stepping up is a recipe for success.
Extra Base Hits Continue – UTSA hit six home runs across the four-game spread. This brings the regular season total to 24. They also had two triples and eight doubles to get the extra-base hit count for the week to sixteen. Those at the Bird Bath often hear Coach Hallmark calling for “doubles and jacks” from his spot in the 3B coach’s box. I would say they are responding to that appropriately. It was another week of a Roadrunner narrowly missing a cycle as Caleb Hill was a home run shy on Friday night.
WHAT I DIDN’T FEEL GOOD ABOUT…
Rushed/Forced throws- While it is a good thing when a team goes 4-0 and wins the way UTSA did, there aren’t many things not to feel good about. Sure, you could nitpick and find something, and I’m sure the coaching staff will have some things they want to see get ironed out. The one takeaway from this weekend came mainly from the mound on Sunday. While FAU scored three runs on Sunday, only one was earned. The other two came after the Owl runner advanced into scoring position on a throwing error from Simon Miller. The first came in the fourth on a failed pickoff attempt, and the second came on an infield hit that might have been better suited for Matt King. It would have been a challenging play, no matter who took it. In neither situation did the forced play need to be made, as both times, there were two outs, and the only runner on was at first. While the runs did not alter the game’s outcome, they did make for more of an anxious final inning.
Shane Sirdashney – Sirdashney got his impressive week off to a great start on Tuesday with a two-run home run in the sixth inning to give UTSA some run support and breathing room against SFA. He added five more hits this weekend, one of which was a double, and another RBI on Friday. Sirdashney was also kept busy in CF, making several put-outs. While one did get past him on Sunday, I’m not sure if it was his fault, as it seemed to slice just out of his range.
Caleb Hill – Hill was responsible for Tuesday’s other UTSA home run, hitting one over the RF wall in the top of the ninth to give extra breathing room. He recorded seven RBIs across the slate, and half of his eight hits went for extra bases. Hill also had a nice sliding catch in the first game on Sunday in foul territory.
Garrett Poston – Poston has been steadily improving at the plate. His OBP Friday was .750, with a double and two hit-by-pitches. He hit a two-run homer during game one on Sunday. I mentioned in the C-USA roundup podcast that he was someone looking to turn a corner at the plate. It seems like he is finding his swing at the right time with conference play starting.
Drake Smith – Smith was the third pitcher to be used on Tuesday against SFA. He pitched three scoreless innings in relief while getting four of the nine outs he recorded via strikeout. He also only allowed two hits and walked one. Smith now has 13 strikeouts on the season in 10.2 IP.
Daniel Shafer – Shafer made three appearances this past week. He pitched an inning of relief Tuesday night before he was called upon to perform double duty in Sunday’s doubleheader. Across the three outings, he threw pitches, logging 3.2 innings, giving up three total hits and one earned run. While game two on Sunday looked like he might have been left in for one too many innings, he worked around the FAU favorable calls and locked it in for his third save of the season.
Tuesday, March 21st @ UTRGV (6:30 PM) “ESPN+.”
I put the stream network in quotations because I hope we have one. I heard from a few people that last week’s SFA game was not streamed. I never heard why this happened, and I hope it doesn’t happen this week. The Roadrunners will look to not only extend their winning streak but also remain undefeated in mid-week games while beating a team they lost to last season.
History against UTSA
UTSA leads the all-time series 11-3 and is 8-2 over the last ten matchups. UTRGV defeated UTSA 12-1 in 2022. Last year’s game was played in the first week of May.
UTRGV is off to a 9-10 record, and they are 1-5 in the WAC. While they swept Houston Christian and won the series against Houston 2-1, they lost to Rice, TAMU-CC, and were swept against Sam Houston. They have an RPI of 241 and are 1-2 against the top 100 RPI teams.
Players To Watch…
2B Isaac Lopez – .397/.471/.616 equals an OPS of 1.087. Lopez is second on the team in RBIs, leading the team with four home runs. He also has scored 18 runs and leads the Vaqueros with 29 hits.
RF Montclair Cain – .284/.412/.448 equals an OPS of .860. Cain leads the team in RBIs with 19 and has six doubles on the year. He has also drawn sixteen walks. In comparison, he has two stolen bases he has been caught stealing three times.
1B Brandon Pimentel – .345/.473/.483 equals an OPS of .956. Pimentel has twelve RBIs for the Vaqueros on two home runs, two doubles, and twenty hits. He has five stolen bases but has been caught stealing twice.
Alex Verdugo – Not to be confused with the Boston Red Sox OF. Verdugo has made six appearances and logged 15.2 innings, all in relief. He has 20 strikeouts and only three walks. He does lead the team with four hit batters. His 2.30 ERA puts him at number three on the team for guys out of the bullpen, but he has logged more innings than the two ahead of him.
Angelo Cabral – I’m not sure if Cabral will start on Tuesday. He is one of only two pitchers who has started games but also has appearances where he didn’t start. With a team-leading 30 strikeouts in 22.2 innings, he may get the nod, if fresh, as UTRGV would like to take a win against UTSA like last season.
In some ways, the season is still young, while in others, UTSA is well into its 2023 campaign. Game after game, the Roadrunners are showing that last year was not a one-off, that they belong, and that they are an excellent team that is also well-coached. While outlets considered them in the mix for conference championship contention early on, they are starting to catch the eye of different college baseball outlets. They also have found themselves on several top ten lists for Division 1 statistics. The Roadrunners continue to play great baseball and don’t seem to be slowing down. It’s an exciting time to be a Roadrunner.
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